Unsound: How Musicians and Creators Survive in the Age of Free

I was excited to see the trailer for the new documentary, Unsound: How Musicians and Creators Survive in the Age of Free. This is an important movie by San Francisco based music producer Count.

From the website:

“Unsound” reveals the dramatic collapse of the music industry and the unintended consequences the internet revolution is having on creators of all kinds. Featuring noteworthy musicians, filmmakers, journalists, and beyond, “Unsound” explores the struggle for creators trying to survive in the ‘age of free’.

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With love to Paris

image by Jean Jullien
image by Jean Jullien

French artist Jean Jullien’s image of the Eiffel Tower, the Paris peace sign, so simply and eloquently expresses what people around the world are feeling.

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Online Novel Writing Class

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Are you writing a novel?

My Online Novel Writing Class is now open for enrollment.


Novel Writing Master Class: a 6-week online writing intensive featuring professional critique, weekly lectures and discussion forums, and informative, inspiring live video chats.


This class isn’t for everyone. Who qualifies?

  • Are you writing or revising a novel, or do you plan to begin one within the next two months?
  • Are you committed to writing or revising five to seven pages per week?
  • Do you want to hone the first fifty pages of your manuscript before sending the book out to agents and publishers?
  • Do you have questions about how to liven up the plot, find the best structure for your novel, create suspense, make the characters more complex, and write a memorable ending?
  • Have you found yourself “stuck” at any point in the writing of your novel-in-progress?
  • Have you struggled with beginning your novel?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, my Master Class in Novel Writing will help you reach your goals.

In this six-week course, you will:

  • Work on a specific project: a novel, novella, or novel-in-stories.
  • Get feedback from the instructor on up to eight pages of writing per week, a $750 value.
  • Participate in weekly discussion forums at your convenience?

What we’ll cover:

  • Crafting a compelling beginning
  • Creating and sustaining suspense
  • Structuring the novel
  • Understanding character motivation
  • Using associative writing and theme to enhance the plot
  • Writing a memorable, layered ending

During our three live video chats, you’ll be able to ask questions and discuss craft in real time. All of the Google hangouts will be recorded, so you can watch them at your convenience if you are unable to attend. You can also submit questions prior to the hangouts.


This course is taught by New York Times bestselling author, veteran writing teacher, and small press publisher Michelle Richmond.


  • October 7, 2015 – November 18, 2015. Google hangouts will be held on October 7, October 28, and Nov 18.
  • All course materials can be accessed for six months after the the class ends.
  • Remember, all Google hangouts will be recorded, so you can watch them at your convenience.
  • Please note: There will be no class the week of November 9.


When you enroll in this course, you’ll receive my feedback on up to 48 manuscript pages (a $750 value), in addition to all of the lectures, discussions, and Google hangouts.

If you’re serious about your writing and have been considering getting a professional critique of your work, the Fiction Master Class offers a great return on your investment.

Your page allotment is cumulative; if you miss a week, you can submit two weeks’ worth of writing to me for critique the following week.

Is this class right for you?

This master class in fiction writing is intended for:

  • writers who are writing or revising a novel or who have an idea for a novel they would like to write
  • writers who already have a grasp of the basic elements of narrative craft and are ready to explore craft on a deeper level
  • writers who are avid readers and passionate writers
  • writers who plan to participate in NaNoWriMo but prefer more structure and accountability

Class Structure & Benefits

  • The weekly lecture will address in-depth issues of fictive craft as they apply to the novel.
  • The forums will provide a place for students to discuss their work and their concerns with one another and with the instructor.
  • The Google hangouts will provide a live venue to ask questions and engage with the instructor.
  • Professional, in-depth feedback on your work from the instructor will help you craft or revise the beginning of your novel to grab the attention of agents and publishers.


After completing the course, you will have written or revised about 40 to 60 pages of your novel. You will have a clear idea of character motivation, how your novel should be structured, and what scenes need to be written. You will understand how your novel’s plot works within the context of your theme. You will have a compelling beginning, and you will have drafted an ending.


To receive professional feedback each week on your novel chapters, click here.

To sign up for the lectures, assignments, and Google hangouts (without professional critique), click here.


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Good News for the Book Business: Print sales on the rise, independent bookstores going strong

Alexandra Alter reports for the New York Times that a surprising thing has happened in the book business over the last couple of years (although perhaps not so surprising to longtime readers and booksellers): the sharp rise in ebook sales generated by early Kindle excitement has leveled off, and readers are returning to print.

Alter interviewed Steve Bercu, owner of BookPeople in Austin, TX, who credits his store’s profitable 2015, in part, to

the stabilization of print and new practices in the publishing industry, such as Penguin Random House’s so-called rapid replenishment program to restock books quickly…Penguin Random House has invested nearly $100 million in expanding and updating its warehouses and speeding up distribution of its books.

I’m thrilled that my longtime publisher is taking the lead on this. People say, “Oh, the Big 5 publishers never change,” and I constantly hear complaints that the New York publishing houses have their heads in the sand. But it sounds as though things are changing, and the publishers are finding ways to make print books more appealing–which is good for readers, good for authors, good for bookstores, and good for communities.

I’m fortunate to live in the Bay Area, home of dozens of thriving independent bookstores. At Kepler’s 60th anniversary party last week, lines were out the door. Green Apple, a mainstay of the Richmond district in San Francisco, opened a new branch on the other side of Golden Gate Park a couple of years ago, and it’s thriving. So too are Books Inc., The Booksmith, and many other bookstores in San Francisco, Marin, the East Bay, and Silicon Valley. Southern California has some fantastic indies too. On my Golden State book tour last year, I had the chance to read at Warwick’s, an amazing independent bookstore with a strong community following in LaJolla, as well as LA’s Vroman’s. And in the past, I’ve had the pleasure of reading at West Hollywood’s famous neighborhood store, Book Soup.

And it’s not just the Golden State where independent bookstores are going strong. The article notes: “The American Booksellers Association counted 1,712 member stores in 2,227 locations in 2015, up from 1,410 in 1,660 locations five years ago.”

I’m sure there are plenty of reasons behind the shift, but I have an inkling that one contributing factor may be a more even-keeled approach to e-book pricing. When publishers have control over the price of e-books, it levels the playing field for print books and, as a result, for brick and mortar stores. My books often cost the same in paperback as they do in e-book format. As a reader, given a choice between print and digital when the cost is the same, I’ll always choose print. E-books may still be very appealing in contrast to hardcovers, which often cost twice as much, but once a book comes out in paperback, the e-book has no real advantage unless you’re a traveler who doesn’t want the weight of books in your luggage or a minimalist who doesn’t want the bulk of books in your living space.

And while the chains may have trouble competing with Amazon, local independent bookstores offer readers, authors, and communities something that Amazon never can. I think that’s why they do so well. Go into Books Inc. Burlingame during holiday season, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc., and you’ll see people lining up to have their purchases gift-wrapped. On any afternoon after school, you’ll find kids reading on the bench seat in the children’s section. Earl, the manager, and all of the employees, will put just the right book in your hand if you’re not sure what your looking for.

Amazon can’t give you that experience, but neither can Barnes and Noble–which may be why smaller bookstores seem to be faring better than the chains. Nor can they mimic the experience of walking into Kepler’s and being greeted by the co-owner, Praveen Madden, who is always excited about something he’s reading and will tell you why. Nor can it rival, for an author, the joy of finding all of my books lined up, signed, on a shelf at Green Apple, with handwritten shelf talkers. (Below, the store’s owners: Kevin Hunsager, Kevin Ryan, and Pete Mulvihill).

Two Kevins & a Pete at Green Apple Books, image courtesy Green AppleGolden State book launch at Green Apple

That’s why I bristle at the idea that independent bookstores are quaint entities we need to “save.” They are vital, and they are strong businesses with sound business models: small spaces filled with the kind of books people want to read, staffed by avid readers who also happen to be great salespeople. Independent bookstores tend to be located in community centers. Books Inc., for example, has eight small but incredibly well-stocked and well-curated stores scattered throughout the Bay Area, all located in the middle of communities that have a lot of readers. Green Apple is in the heart of the inner Richmond, near neighborhood markets and restaurants. The Booksmith is in the heart of Haight Street, a neighborhood with constant foot traffic. And what serious reader in San Francisco can resist a trip to City Lights in North Beach? The fact is, ordering books from Amazon is no more convenient than purchasing from my neighborhood store, which is a five-minute drive from my house, gives me “same-day service” without the prime membership price tag, and pumps money back into my community.

I’ve got nothing against e-books, really. But, as my 10-year-old, child of digital everything, consumer of all things electronic except electronic books, says, “I like real books a million times better.”

Read Alter’s article, “The Plot Twist: E-Book Sales Slip and Print is Far From Dead.”

photo of Books Inc. courtesy of Yelp

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5 Great Novels to Read This Fall

The RoomThe Room by Jonas Karlsson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A delightfully strange novel that brings to mind Kafka and Hrabal. When a narcissistic office worker named Bjorn discovers a secret room, his co-workers, who do not believe the room exists, ostracize him. While in the room, however, Bjorn does his best work, making himself indispensable to the company. The co-workers who despise him come to resentfully rely on him to keep their entire department relevant. A slim, tricky, maddeningly amusing novel that leaves many questions unanswered.

There Must Be Some Mistake: A NovelThere Must Be Some Mistake: A Novel by Frederick Barthelme
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Forgetful Bay reminds me a lot of the Gulf Coast, where I grew up. No one does Gulf Coast torpor–the heat and humidity and wrenching boredom of it–quite like Barthelme. Wallace Webster lives a quiet life, observing the strange goings-on and frequent deaths in this backwater community with a sharp eye and quick wit. I was reminded of the short story “The School,” by Barthelme’s brother Donald, in which a series of small animals dies, leaving a group of innocent children wondering, “Is death that which gives meaning to life?” As with “The School,” the crimes that befall Forgetful Bay become increasingly difficult to ignore.

Barthelme draws Webster’s relationships with the various women in his life–daughter, co-worker, and occasional lover–with tenderness and complexity. A wonderful novel by one of my favorite writers, whose work proves, again and again, that you don’t need a lot of pages to cover a whole lot of emotional ground.

Marta Oulie: A Novel of BetrayalMarta Oulie: A Novel of Betrayal by Sigrid Undset
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The 1907 novel by Norwegian writer Sigrid Undset, who would go on to win the Nobel Prize in 1928, still holds up to scrutiny today. It is now, as it was then, a very modern novel. The subject–the interior life of a young married woman who desperately longs for a more passionate life–made waves in Norway upon its publication and has been translated for the first time into English. A beautifully written, deeply affecting journey into the mind of a woman struggling against convention.

Academy GirlsAcademy Girls by Nora Carroll
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When single mom Jane Milton, recently divorced, returns as a teacher to the stuffy boarding school where she spent her formative years, she is bombarded by sinister memories and shadowed by a former classmate. Moving back and forth between Milton’s senior year and her current life as a teacher, Academy Girls is a compelling mystery about how the crimes of the past echo into the future.

The New NeighborThe New Neighbor by Leah Stewart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Delightfully creepy and quietly terrifying.

View all my reviews

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